Running from Boredom
Few things are worse than to be labeled boring. Better to be dishonest and interesting, inept but funny, than honest, competent and boring. Bores automatically lose the opportunity to be sexy, which puts them fairly low on the evolutionary scale.
None of us wants to be considered the source of boredom. Boredom is the sickness of the age, from which we all continue to flee, like our ancestors fleeing the plague. The internet is filled with bloggers who are scream I AM NOT BORING and readers who demand SAVE ME FROM BOREDOM. After all, why are you reading this, except that you are seeking distraction from the inevitable, always looming boredom?
It wasn’t always so. People in the past were far too busy making ends meet than to have the luxury of being bored. The first use of the term “bored” in English literature appeared in a work from the Earl of Carlisle in 1768: “I pity my Newmarket friends, who are to be bored by these Frenchmen”. Ah those Frenchmen, boring even then (according to Englishmen, but not, apparently, to their wives). It was Byron who first used the word as a noun in 1823, inventing that label that we now all shun:
“Society is now one polished horde,
Formed of two mighty tribes,
the Bores and the Bored”
Some decades later a reference to our contemporary ailment, boredom, first appeared in published writing, in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, from 1852: “His chronic malady of boredom”. Today boredom lurks everywhere, and it’s a killer. Math is boring; Switzerland is boring; Desperate Housewives is boring; the iPad is boring. Face to face conversation risks being confronted by a bore, and that is by definition boring. But luckily you have an electronic anti-boredom device of some sort close at hand. With the touch of a remote control, or the click of a mouse, we can flee from boredom and find something to entertain us.
Alas, the spell that instant entertainment casts grows increasingly fleeting. We live in an entertainment saturated culture, yet we all seem to be so bored. We seldom reread novels (do we still read novels?), especially not old ones (i.e. boring ones). And even if we are forced to do something that is boring, like homework, at least we can break it into doable chunks, by interspersing it with checking email, chatting on Facebook, clicking on a YouTube link that someone has sent us. That keeps the boredom at bay.Continued on the next page